Friday night at the historic Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis, you could almost feel the spirits of all the show business luminaries who have performed there since the venue opened in 1927. Their storied presence was inevitably conjured up when living legend Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein took to the stage to entertain guests at the Great American Songbook Dinner/Dance & Auction.
The event was the first of two during the 2013 Encore Celebration Gala Weekend to benefit Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts. Saturday night is the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Induction and After Party at the Palladium.
Backing up to the beginning of the evening — upon arrival, the 700 guests were met on the red carpet-covered sidewalk underneath the Indiana Repertory Theatre marquee by event co-hosts Stephen and Elizabeth Taylor, prior to checking in and riding elevators to the ballroom. Once there they enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they chatted with one another and perused a silent auction located in the ballroom’s perimeter spaces.
By 7:30 p.m. the attendees were called to the dining area where they took their seats at eight-top tables covered in striped black cloths and decorated with candles, fake jewel stones and centerpieces of white flowers of various varieties (by Palmer-Kelly designs). Once seated the program commenced with welcome remarks by the Center’s board chair, Frank Basile, followed by comments from President/CEO Tania Castroverde Moskalenko.
After a video featuring past Palladium performers, images representing Michael Feinstein Initiative activities and the Center’s resident companies were shown to the guests and dinner was served. It was followed by a live auction which featured such high-end items as a Colts away game package with a ride on the team plane and a golf outing on the Simon’s estate Asherwood private golf course.
Following a live auction that netted big dollars, the evening’s entertainment, titled “Michael & Friends,” began with songs from the Great American Songbook performed by crooner Tom Postilio and his 16-piece Tom Postilio Orchestra. Postilio, who has a second career in real estate, is known to television audiences as one of the featured brokers in “Selling New York,” the hit HGTV show.
By the time Michael Feinstein took to the stage, the energized crowd was highly primed, with expectancy filling the air. After thanking the crowd for their support of the Center and his Michael Feinstein Initiative, Feinstein introduced Tori Anna, third place winner, and Tony Ponella, second place winner, of the Great American Songbook 2012 High School Vocal Competition. Anna sang “Our Love is Here to Stay” and Ponella sang “Fascinating Rhythm,” both by George and Ira Gershwin.
While at the podium Feinstein also introduced 2013 Encore Award winner Rita Moreno and singer/guitarist/songwriter Jose Feliciano, both of whom were in the audience.
Demonstrating the vocal gifts, showmanship and clever sense of humor that make him one of the world’s greatest entertainers, Feinstein, with the powerful sound of the orchestra behind him, dazzled the crowd with songs that included “More,” “The One I Love Belongs to Someone Else” and “For Once in My Life.”
Minnelli was introduced earlier by Feinstein when he playfully called out to her in the audience and asked her to “direct” him where to position a mic. When she joined him later, she thrilled the audience with her own uncommon gift for showmanship. Exhibiting vocal strength and a radiating presence, the expressive superstar sparkled, with Feinstein on piano, in a duet version of “I Love a Violin.”
After Feinstein concluded his set, Postilio returned to the stage to sing with the orchestra as the crowd took to the dance floor. Later, Postilio was joined by his business and life partner Mickey Conlon, who is also featured on “Selling New York.” Like Postilio, Conlon also doubles as an entertainer. Successful at selling real estate, the charismatic duo also showed they know how to sell a song well, too.
For tickets and information regarding upcoming performances at the Center for the Performing Arts, call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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